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The plan to punish Assad, Spain’s economic recovery and the PP corruption case are all very much in the balance

The new political season is beginning in a cloud of uncertainty, given the presence of a number of unknowns, which I will sum up in three.

The most immediate is the attack on Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. An attack that would supposedly be entirely surgical — as clean as a session in a shooting gallery — but which seems to have been frustrated before it started given the firm refusal of the British parliament. This has notably chilled the warlike ardor of other governments.

It's hard to say how the superpower's new military adventure will end. But the mere fact that Obama was thought to be prepared to carry out his threat, after drawing a red line (his own) concerning the use of chemical weapons, shows a disturbing continuity with his Republican predecessor, given the obvious parallel with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 after Bush's ultimatum about the (imaginary) weapons of mass destruction.

However, the real precedent is not the invasion of Iraq, but rather the bombing of Kosovo by NATO, decided by President Clinton in 1999, four days before his impeachment over the Lewinsky case. This was the first time, after many years of respect for international law, that the taboo was broken, of not undertaking armed actions without a formal Security Council resolution. So Clinton broke the taboo, ignored the UN and bombed the Serbian forces for two weeks. Just four years later, the Azores trio did the same to the Iraqi forces, feeling authorized by Clinton's precedent. And now Obama again feels authorized by the same precedent, to design a plan of air strikes on Syrian forces, more or less copied from Kosovo. But the situation in the Middle East in 2013 has nothing to do with that of the Balkans in 1999. And if then the possible consequences of an attack appeared manageable, in this case they are literally incalculable, and capable of causing a real international catastrophe.

With one coalition or another, Merkel will go on applying the same demands for strict fiscal stability

The second unknown is Spain's supposed economic reactivation. The government has launched the specious claim that the second recession is over and that we are on the eve of recovery, as supposedly shown by the timid economic growth in France and Germany in the second quarter. On these shaky grounds they are ringing the bells and cheerfully announcing that Spain will begin growing, starting in the third quarter, now about to end. But this is mere unfounded publicity. The variables of the Spanish economy (unemployment, income, consumption, credit) are still in depression, owing to the policy of fiscal adjustment decreed by Brussels and administered by the Rajoy government. If there is no clear change in the policy of extreme austerity, we are going to remain sunk in a state of depression. True, such a change of policy might be authorized by the hegemonic European power, after the upcoming German elections. But this doesn't seem too likely, because with one coalition or another, Merkel will go on applying the same ordoliberalism that demands strict fiscal stability. It cannot be ruled out that the second recession will drag on for several quarters yet.

And there remains the worst unknown to be cleared up: the Bárcenas case, the independent variable on which so much depends in terms of confidence, both domestic and foreign, in the so-called "trademark Spain." If, as seems likely, the PP avails itself of its monopoly of political and judicial power, and manages to finally sweep the shameful affair under the rug, it will serve for little if Madrid wins the Olympic jackpot, because it will mean the definitive Berlusconization of Spain. So everything depends on the short period that Judge Ruz is given to oversee the case. But to judge by what has happened to the hard disks on Bárcenas' computers, we cannot expect much from that quarter.

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